Hundred Hues

The world reassembled itself.
It had not really fallen apart.
Bethany’s perception of it fractured
in the glint of the storage unit’s
razor wire.

Only a guest in the hidden chapel,
the light through the stained glass
worked better for her
than Christ upon the cross
with his decorative piercings.

Bethany sharpened her sense
of broken-down-in-urban-America
so the pieces fit properly.
No light shined through rough edges.
No cold winds pressed bare skin.

She relaxed into herself
as if lying on a pile of raked leaves
with the smoke of other piles
thick in the air before cities
banned such fiery rehearsals.

Bethany heard the song of the world
and how flat and out of rhythm
her life-notes were within it.
And the counter melody
of the long scars upon her body—

her repeated dash in the buff
through a thorn bush thicket
thinking she could embody
the Christ’s thorny crown
under the watchful eyes of owls.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Suddenly

Bethany awoke
naked and confused
as a morning shower
dotted her skin
in a breezeless field
of lavender rows.

She sat up
and spotted
her dropped cloths
leading back
to the two-lane
highway—
the only way
in or out
of the peninsula.

She remembered
walking away
from a rumor-filled
harbor town
where pedestrian eyes
drilled holes in her spine
and the neighbor
who poisoned her dog.

A golden retriever
bounded
down the heavily
scented rows
to investigate her,
bowled her over
back onto the dirt
and planted
dog kisses
upon her
tight-lipped face.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Fifty Six Degrees

You cannot trust Bethany
to tell the truth
about her past trauma.

She has thirty years of practice
preventing these memories
from breaking through

to disrupt her day
filled with shopping, laundry
and three kids.

But the trauma ferments
in the dark of ceiled oaken casks
deep in the mind’s cellar.

With no vent set in the wood
to release the carbon dioxide
the barrel hoops strain

to keep the staves in place.
A sour smell occupies
Bethany’s nose.

That is what she says
in halts and stops
to our semicircle of faces.

And we know this too.
This aging darkness tucked away
under vaulted ceilings.

Cask after cask
awaiting the steward to tap
the wood

or for an explosion
that shatters the barrel staves
and twists and mangles the hoops.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Mechanism

I restrain
the most difficult emotions
in a holding cell
until circumstances change
and I check
for bodily injuries
to determine
if drawn blood
changes equations.

Later I release
compressed feelings
and view them
like a newsreel
before allowing them
to engage
with my body.

Even then
I may overestimate
my capacity to handle
concepts and prejudices
desires in conflict with reality
and crumble to the ground
as my knees buckle
from the tremors.

While on the floor
I search for any word
to load into oration’s shotgun
so I might return fire
even if my words hit only
the ghost of my interactions.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Wait For The Next Full Moon

It is Summer. Paul is cold.
His spine shivers. His ribcage rattles.

His shallow breath
suffocates his heart’s fire.

He will not share this memory
with you, or anyone,

because he has not yet shared it
with himself.

He was in his thirties
when the memory began to emerge.

Somehow genetics knows
only an adult can process certain experiences.

If only the release of this memory
did not have a time stamp,

forcing Paul to relive it again as though
he was four to seven years old.

How his logical mind fights the process
with adult suppression techniques

such as blended whiskeys, work
and over-the-counter medications.

His left arm trembles
as he reaches for the latest miracle cure

which is the booted foot
kicking the can farther down a long road.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Complex

Now you know
I was once
committed
for owning
one more
complication
than I
could juggle
without dropping
everything
while my dog
barked warning
that the church
pounded nails
out of scrap iron
ready to pierce
my flesh
as a refresher
parable
for the rows
and rows
of warehoused
worshippers.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Clay Pigeons

The exit wound
always exceeds the diameter
of the bullet’s initial penetration.

So it is with harsh words.
Just enough velocity to enter
the brain and rattle around,

ricocheting off the bone walls,
shattering self-esteem
like so many clay pigeons.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Dervish Circles

I washed
my shame
with color-safe
bleach
and dried it
set on permanent-
press.

I hung
my shame
in my closet,
adjacent to
three, white,
long-sleeve
shirts.

My shame
hung
on a cedar
hanger
so moths
would not
eat holes
out of it
and spoil
its sky-jump
color knit
for when
my mind
is a whirl
of dervish
circles.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Schizophrenic Dopey

On a snow white morning,
I woke up and realized,
once and for all time,
that I was Grumpy!

This truth was quickly confirmed
when I discovered
the decapitated bodies
of six metaphysical midgets
strewn about my one-room house,
their floppy hats covered
rigor mortise erections,
and all their hi-ho smiles
were wiped from their contorted faces—

The raven-haired beauty
slept in someone else’s bed,
dreaming she had escaped
the poison apple.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Ornaments

Because the statues
were so much plastic kitsch,
I found it difficult
to take the doctors seriously.

I took their
institutional questions as obscene
while sitting on frayed lawn chairs
on freshly cut grass.

We sat in a half circle
with the psych doctor opposite us,
wondering if our similar defects
make us kin or family.

I had not yet learned
your names or your ages
but the doctor felt at ease
telling everyone our middle names.

The doctor told us we looked beautiful.
Me with my white goatee.
Gale with the bandage around
a self-inflicted gunshot wound in her thigh.

Marla’s face still droopy
after the forced calm of a Thorazine night.
Carlos full of machismo in his wheelchair
knowing diabetes eats his remaining leg.

The doctor asked us to speak our truths
as if her pen was a magic wand
to move the stone over the cave entrance
to allow the Christ to rise.

We talked around metastasized memories
and treatment theories from previous occasions
spent with hospital bands around wrists
and rotations of others in the circle.

We nervously told pornographic jokes.
One of which keyed a lock in Gale’s mental closet
and the memory delivered a first round, one punch
knock out that ended the session.

For participation we were awarded
blue bubble gum cigars,
which lead to Groucho imitations
from the oldest of us.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney